The ever-expanding list of smart home products — security systems and smart locks and lightbulbs and ovens and smoke alarms and baby monitors – presented us with a unique problem when we set about choosing winners for the 2017 Home Awards: How do we compare the newest appliances to products like Wi-Fi connected vacuums or BBQ grills? Does a better dryer beat a connected egg timer? What if it’s a really great timer?
In the end, we opted to focus on the one thing that makes all the products on this list award-worthy: innovation.
Our 2017 Home Awards recipients are game-changers in their respective fields. They don’t just improve on their predecessors, they change our expectations entirely.
Digital Trends writers put oodles of products to the test, ranging from pet vacuums to washing machines, slowly whittling a long list to one winner and two runners-up in six categories – Cooking, Entertaining, Home Care, Sleeping, Grooming, and Home Security. In some cases, making the winning choice was difficult. Other times it was easy. After all, who can argue with the fact that the Monolith Guru BBQ has completely changed the way we cook food outdoors forever?
These are the home devices that used technology to rewrite the rules in 2017. And a few of them might even belong in your home.
This refrigerator isn’t just another pretty face. There’s so much to like about this product, from its slim profile (for a fridge) to its peek-a-boo tinted window that you can knock on to see what’s inside.
The LG InstaView fridge spent months inside our test kitchen, where it withstood a lot, and we do mean a lot. The smudge-proof stainless steel worked well, with minimal annoying fingerprints to mar the silk finish. Those permanently left-over leftovers didn’t stink up the fridge, thanks to a high-powered and efficient air filter.
We loved having the ability to push a button on the right door handle to open the sub-compartment for quick beer grabs, and the crisper drawers were sturdy and rolled out smoothly, even after months of use. While the fridge in our testing kitchen measured counter-deep, we didn’t feel like we were pinched for real estate. Having an ice maker that we could kick into turbo came in handy. And finally, someone got wise about the water dispenser, creating space large enough for a pitcher to catch water underneath.
The InstaView is in a new class of refrigerators that have upped the game in terms of smart technology, with corresponding apps to help you plan meals and track what’s in the fridge without opening a single door.
A combination of a smart pan and a smart induction burner, the Hestan Cue can entirely change the way you cook certain foods. Not only does the burner heat up lightning quick, but it communicates with a sensor in the pan. You can use an app to set the parameters for a steak you’re cooking — how thick it is and your preferred doneness — and the pan and burner will keep in communication via Bluetooth to hold a consistent temperature. Pretty soon, you’ll wonder how you cooked using high, medium, and low instead of exact degrees.
Those who have debated between a food processor and a blender might want to check out the All-Clad Prep and Cook. It’s definitely closer to the size of a food processor, but it includes a heating element. That means its list of functions is very high — cooking, slow cooking, steaming, stir frying, mixing, stirring, kneading, whipping, crushing ice, and chopping nuts — and it explains its large footprint and high price tag. You’ll be able to do all those functions just by pressing a button, and there are 300 recipes included to give you a feel for the appliance’s capabilities.
The Monolith BBQ Guru doesn’t look like your typical charcoal BBQ. That’s because it’s not.
This device is both beauty and beast, with a sleek, heavy-duty black ceramic base and steel legs. From afar, it could pass for a tiny version of the mechanical spider from Wild Wild West. It’s a BBQ for the serious chef – one who wants the ability to grill, smoke, bake, sear, or roast any food the imagination can create. And to feed a crowd, the reason we picked the Monolith as our winner for Entertaining.
The Guru comes with various tools, including a pizza stone for that wood-fire taste at home. A wood-chip feeder system on the base lets you add a touch of hickory or apple smoke to your meal – even last-minute, if you desire. The Cyber Q Cloud Temperature Controller with Wi-Fi lets you track and control the heat of your meat by adjusting the temperature level inside the base via vents.
We tested it out by slapping some rib-eyes on the grill, adding some cherry wood pellets in for good measure, and using the Cyber Q to monitor progress. The result was impressive: evenly cooked, juicy, melt-in-your mouth tastiness. The Monolith has truly upped the game in the BBQ world and is a must-have for anyone serious about outdoor cooking.
Where to honor the newest version of the device that is helping reshape our homes? Does it belong in the category of cooking because it shows us risotto recipes? Does it belong in the sleeping category because it sets our alarms? Do we include it in the home security category because it can lock the front door?
In the end, we decided the Echo Show sits in entertaining, because while the device is multi-functional, it also serves as a news screen, a streaming music device, and even a place to hear Alexa tell jokes. The Show’s screen puts it a step above the other home assistants on the market.
Making your own soda water at home can definitely help you cut down on bottles and cans, especially if you’re an addict. But most machines warn you against trying to carbonate anything other than water. The Drinkmate has a special cap that helps you control the release of the gas so liquid doesn’t foam all over your kitchen. Fancy a bubbly wine or fizzy juice? The Drinkmate can deliver both. It’s not going to turn ordinary chardonnay into champagne, but it can re-carbonate your flat soda.
When a crowdfunding campaign catches the attention of Tim Cook, you know someone’s on to something. Nebia is an easy-to-install shower head that atomizes water into a mist instead of the streams you’re probably used to. It’s a bit like those sprays of water that occasionally turn on in your grocer’s vegetable section. The nozzles break up the water droplets, increasing the surface area covered but reducing the amount of H2O used by up to 70 percent.
A typical shower uses 20 gallons of water; the Nebia uses only six, according to the company. You can easily slide the shower head up and down, which is especially nice for couples with a significant height difference. The system also includes a handheld sprayer that you can turn on and off, and the shower head itself has two settings. If you get too close to the nozzles, the spray can feel a little pokey, but otherwise it’s like walking through an immersive fog. It does a fine job rinsing out shampoo and getting rid of soap, but it can be hard to remove wet hair stuck to slippery skin without the typical shower stream. It might take some getting used to what feels like a spa feature in your own bathroom, but the water savings and radical design are incredibly impressive.
If you’re a dog owner, you dread the pet bath. Do you use your bathtub, where your furry friend will splash like a drunk elf and clog the drain with her hair? Or do you use a hose outside and hope hastily-slung soap made a dent in that dirty fir?
Enter the Bissell BarkBath, a cleaning system for your dog. The BarkBath uses a vacuum-like device with a 48-ounce tank of water to get Fido clean without the mess. You put the shampoo on your dog, turn on the device, and use the nozzle to gently pull dirt from your dog’s skin and hair.
Blue light gets a lot of flack for keeping people up at night, but it does have some benefits: You might have seen it used at your dermatologist’s office, for instance. At specific wavelengths, it can destroy acne-causing bacteria. The Espada from Foreo is an at-home version, so it’s not quite as powerful as what your doctor has. It won’t shrink your zits overnight, but it will help curb inflammation and redness by killing bacteria before it can cause those effects. You’ll need to use it regularly, as with the rest of your skincare routine, though.
For years, appliance companies have been making washing machines and dryers with larger and larger capacities. What they weren’t considering all that time was our favorite sweater or our child’s stuffed animal. What to do with those?
Both the Samsung FlexWash and FlexDry give us the answer in the form of flexibility we need. They’re simultaneously both large capacity and small capacity: The appliances have dual chambers for big and small loads.
When these things arrived in our test laundry room, we were impressed for a couple of reasons. First, they’re huge and beautiful in an impressive way. Second, they gave us flexibility in washing and drying our clothes with all kinds of impressive settings, including a steam feature. The FlexWash has two washing zones — a larger one on the bottom for typical loads, and a smaller compartment on top for things you don’t want to get lost in the main compartment, such as delicates. Just use that smaller compartment to wash your favorite sweater before heading out for the night.
The FlexDry brings the same concept as the FlexWash. That sweater you just washed? Now you can put it directly into the “delicate” dryer compartment located on the top of the machine for a quick dry, while your towels tumble in the big drum below.
Part vacuum, part security camera, part toy, the LG Hom-Bot isn’t your typical robot vac. Sure, that’s the primary function, but it’s helped along by an app and a couple of cameras. Using the app, you can drive the Hom-Bot to a specific spot (even if you’re out). From there, it can use motion sensors to spot bad guys or actually do some cleaning. Thanks to its low profile, it gets under a fair amount of furniture, and it’s good at extricating itself from the usual gambit of cords and other debris you forget to pick up before running a robot vac.
Fans and space heaters both go into storage for part of the year, but Dyson solves that problem with its fan-heater combinations. The Dyson Pure Hot+Cold Link adds another dimension of functionality with the device’s purification capability. It will cool you down in the summer, keep you toasty in the winter, and remove 99.97 percent of allergens as small as 0.3 microns all year round. Thanks to a bladeless design, the Dyson is also quiet about it.
The Kuna is such a remarkable idea that we’re surprised no one thought of it sooner. A front porch light that looks like a simple floodlight, but with a camera, siren, two-way intercom, alarm, and motion sensor? Sign us up.
During testing, we were surprised with how quickly we received notifications on our app regarding movement on our porch and in our yard. The motion sensors detected everything, including the neighbor’s pesky cat, which gave us comfort while we were not at home. We loved that we were able to communicate with solicitors without having to answer the door. The barking dog feature was incredibly clear but did not sound like a recording, which is good. The siren was loud, and you never know when you’ll need to use it.
The security device includes HD live and recorded video, a wide-angle camera, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. And the camera/floodlight combo can be controlled via Amazon’s Alexa.
The floodlight is attractive as well, with several different looks to choose from. No one would recognize that the device is a high-powered camera from afar. By the time a would-be thief gets close enough to notice, they’re already being recorded. The company is continuously improving the app and the product, announcing this year that its AI will allow the device to determine whose car – a stranger’s or your teenager’s — is pulling into the driveway.
The Almond is innovative in that it features a touch screen — a first for a router that can also be used as a range extender. It also does not require a PC or a Mac to set up: Simply connect it to DSL or cable. In fact, set-up took our tester only five minutes.
The device is compatible with Amazon Alexa so you can control your devices and monitor the safety of your home. Smart devices like lights and thermostats can be controlled through the Securifi Almond, and you can also block unwanted devices.
You can put anti-virus software on your computer, but what about your connected security camera? Or smart lightbulbs? These devices can provide an access point to everything using your Wi-Fi, but they’re not always easy to lock down. The Dojo Pebble keeps tabs on all the devices on your network, then lights up green, yellow, or red to let you know if there’s unusual or malicious activity so you can take action.
Among the first Alexa devices not from Amazon, the C by GE Sol lamp looks futuristic and is a bit more functional than the average Echo. For $20 more, it can do almost everything the smart speaker can do, plus it’s a functional LED light. With a halo sticking out of what looks like a taller Amazon Dot, the Sol can be your Alexa assistant, answering trivia questions, giving you weather updates, and sharing the news with you. That kind of functionality makes it a good fit for the bedroom, since Alexa can work as a backup alarm. The ring is also a clock, with the red light in the hour position and the blue at the minute mark.
But the real reason we put the Sol in the sleep category is the lamp’s ability to go from bright white to mellow yellow. You can use the light’s app to set scenes like “wake up” and “bedtime,” and the LED will adjust to the appropriate shade. In addition, the Sol has access to Alexa’s 20,000 skills, and she can help control your smart home. Asking your voice assistant to lock your door and turn off all the lights from bed is the smart-home owner’s dream.
There are apps, devices, and even whole beds that claim the ability to improve your sleep. With the Beautyrest Sleeptracker, you don’t have to sleep next to your phone, wear some awkward device, or spend thousands on a smart bed. Slide the Beautyrest Sleeptracker under your mattress, put the monitoring device next to your bed, and the next morning you can get details on your heart and breathing rate and whether you got light, deep, or REM sleep. While the SleepTracker won’t improve your sleep, tracking patterns does educate you on how you sleep — invaluable information you can then use to fix your bad habits.
Infants require lots of attention, especially in the middle of the night. The Snoo Smart Cradle, a rocking cradle that you can control from an app on your phone, helps everyone get a little more shut-eye. The bassinet rocks at various speeds and emits white noise that mimics the sounds of the womb. When your baby wakes up, you can turn on gentle rocking from the warmth of your own bed. Of course nothing replaces human touch, but our new-parent testers were impressed with the product, telling us the Snoo did a good job “replacing the need to rock the baby to sleep for 30 to 60 minutes in the dead of night.”